I do Dissentshik's article {"Night in a Sealed Room," op-ed, Jan. 26} was replete with ironies and bizarre parallels: Jews in Israel threatened with destruction because they are Jews, watching on television the threatened destruction of Latvians (because they are Latvians), who had themselves previously killed Jews because they were Jews; the potential use of gas against Jews in Israel who are the descendants of those who in one way or another survived the "gas showers" of Europe.

But the greatest irony was that Dissentshik seems to have learned the wrong lesson from all this. He wrote, "There must be something extremely obnoxious about my family. In the space of a half-century there have been numerous attempts to get rid of us. And whenever they can't do it with the conventional means, they resort to gas. And almost always there are some Germans either doing it themselves or helping others -- Latvians or Iraqis -- in this endeavor."

Is there any real difference between Dissentshik's statement concerning the Germans and the lies and generalizations that have been used for a thousand years to stimulate hatred against the Jews?

Those of us who are Jews call ourselves the Chosen People. I was taught that we were chosen, by the example of our lives, to show others what God wants from all humankind. By that standard -- no matter what the provocation or burden of history -- Jews should be the last people to carry forward the generalizations about others that are the foundations of bigotry and hatred. Dissentshik's remark about the Germans, unfortunately, adds one more painful irony to the many in his article.

-- Peter J. Wallison

While Ido Dissentshik's bitterness is understandable, he displayed one characteristic common to those who destroyed his family in Latvia and seek to destroy Israel today: the indiscriminate targeting of entire nationalities without concern for innocent individuals.

Dissentshik admitted that he did not know what happened to his family in Riga in 1941. Yet he concluded that "in all probability" (i.e., without any evidence) they were burned to death by "Jew-hating Latvians." On the basis of this assumption, he explained it was difficult for him "to feel compassion for the beleaguered Latvians."

To Dissentshik, the persecutors of his family are not the specific criminals who set the fires, pulled the triggers or launched the missiles, but the nationalities to which they belonged. It matters little to him that in all likelihood none of the people under attack in Riga today were even alive when his family was destroyed. The guilt, in his mind, is collective and should be placed upon every generation of those who speak the same language or share the same culture.

President Bush has repeatedly emphasized that the war in the Persian Gulf is against Saddam Hussein, not the Iraqi people. This appears to be a distinction lost upon Dissentshik. Saddam Hussein, like Hitler, Stalin and every other power-hungry madman, may have been born of a certain nationality but transcended it when he entered the realm of evil. The same can be said for those -- be they Latvian, German or Russian -- who committed crimes against humanity in Riga in 1941.

It is wrong to attribute guilt and evil to an entire nationality on the basis of the actions of some of its members. It should also be irrelevant whether the "beleaguered" of Riga, like those in Tel Aviv, Riyadh or even Baghdad, are Latvians, Jews or Arabs. Unless we are able to feel compassion for innocent human beings, we cannot hope to end conflicts based on ethnic hatred and bigotry. -- Ojars Kalnins

The writer is public affairs liaison for the Legation of Latvia.